Saturday, August 19, 2017
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Get your heart racing

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If you like a bit of excitement in your life, then this is the car for you. As a longstanding and loyal Subaru fan I expected more of the same great handling and quick-off-the-mark acceleration from this test-drive. But Subaru has taken the all new WRX to an entirely new level that is certain to get your heart racing.

With Subaru’s World Rally Championship efforts dating back to the early-1980s and big name drivers like Petter Solberg and the late Possum Bourne intimately entwined in its DNA, it was important to me that this week’s Bay Driver was the real deal. I had heard of but never met a local legend in rally circles Andy Martin and managed to get hold of his mobile number from a friend of mine. After being advised he was easier to contact via text message than by calling him directly, I managed to make contact with this mystery man of the New Zealand Rally Championship. With a long history of driving rally cars, starting when he was just 20 years of age in a Datsun 1200, after some pretty successful seasons he took a leave of absence while his kids were young before returning rally car driving four years ago.  Successfully competing in the NZRC, Andy and his co-driver Matt Hayward are sponsored by his own company, New Zealand Carbon Farming, a company that plants pine trees for carbon absorption not timber and provides carbon credit to big energy companies.

Keeping it clean

We had originally planned to take our test drive to TECT Park in Pyes Pa Rd, but because Andy was under some time constraints we decided instead to take a quick trip up to Reid Rd in the Papamoa Hills – and a very quick trip it was. “Keep it clean,” shouted Farmer Autovillage’s Subaru brand specialist Darrel Nicholson, as we headed out the driveway. Followed by: “We only just had it washed”. Sorry Darrel, we failed on this front, it was just a U-Turn in a farmer’s driveway I swear, (yeah right). Within minutes it was obvious the WRX was in the hands of a very experienced driver – even on the streets heading out of town Andy’s confidence behind the wheel was obvious. But what impressed me the most was how intuitive the car was, it was like Andy had been driving this particular car for years. Though it was when we hit the Papamoa Hills that the WRX really came to life!

So what’s new?

Besides an all-new body that’s about 40 per cent stiffer, a heavily revised platform with stronger suspension properties and a completely overhauled interior, the biggest difference is the downsizing of the drivetrain by 500cc, to a 2.0-litre DIT horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ four-cylinder turbocharged engine driving all four wheels via a six – rather than five – speed manual gearbox and viscous Limited-Slip Differential or an automatic Sports Lineartronic Transmission – a first for this new generation model. Other changes include quicker-ratio electric rack and pinion steering (14.5:1), appreciably stiffer springs and wider anti-roll bars – with the promise of flatter cornering tempered by claims that the ride has also improved – and brakes with 140 per cent less fade than before. The entry-level WRX manual kicks in from $48,990 and brings AWD of course, as well as seven airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist, Active Torque Vectoring system, reverse camera, fog-lights, cruise control, LED daytime driving lights and auto headlights. It also features front sports seats, dual climate control air-conditioning, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, D-shaped leather steering wheel, a central touchscreen display and 18-inch alloys shod with Dunlop SP Sport tyres. Being a WRX, there’s also the expected bodykit with spoilers front and rear.

The verdict

The new Subaru WRX is an outstanding car – and I really loved it! It was quick, handled exceptionally well but was refined and still felt like a luxury sedan despite its rally-bred pedigree. Andy enjoyed the WRX too, saying the extra room found in the new model compared to its predecessor is ideal for long legs or kids. And he was impressed with the power and handing and blown away with the level of technology on offer both inside the car and under the hood. But when I asked him if he could see himself in the WRX as his daily drive, he said he’d prefer STi model. What there is another level? Watch this space!


Subaru WRX Premium

Highlighted features as standard:

• Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

• 2-litre Direct Injection Turbocharged horizontally-opposed Boxer engine

• 6-speed manual or Sports Lineartronic

• Maximum power output: 197kW@5600rpm

• Maximum torque: 350Nm @ 2400-5200rpm

• Leather interior with drivers memory setting

• Rear cross traffic alert & blind spot monitoring

• Electric sunroof

• Sports bucket seats - driver and front passenger

• Multi-Function Display unit featuring 7.0” touchscreen

• Sat-Nav System complimentary 3 year map updates

• Harman & Kardon 8 speaker audio system with subwoofer & amplifier

• Rear view reverse camera

Price: RRP: from $48,990 (WRX Manual) Dealer: Farmer Autovillage Subaru, 116 Hewletts Rd, Mount Maunganui. Phone: 07 578 6017

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